GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Contract furniture maker Steelcase Inc. reported sales of $758 million during the second quarter, a 7 percent drop. Net income of $38.2 million was up about $1 million from a year ago.
 
Falling energy markets hurt results, the company says. "Brexit and other political factors are contributing to persistent headwinds, impacting our expectations for the second half of the year," said Jim Keane, president and CEO, who offered a positive spin. 
 
"While the domestic economic and political environments remain uncertain, Americas orders improved in August and early September on the strength of new products, our project opportunity pipeline for the next twelve months has expanded, and we are expecting growth in the third quarter compared to the prior year."
 
"In the Americas, we launched an additional eight new products, enhancements and line extensions during the last three months, bringing the calendar year-to-date total to 25, and we have plans for an additional 15 introductions over the balance of the calendar year," said  Keane.  "These accelerated product development efforts, strong demand for our newer products and other actions all contribute to our expectation that the Americas business will return to year-over-year growth in the third quarter of fiscal 2017.
 
Steelcase joins HNI, which also reported faltering contract furniture sales this quarter. Keane said efforts at implementing lean manufacturing in its Europe, Asia, and emerging marketings, should improve its margins.
 
"Our operating metrics for on-time deliveries and quality also showed consistent improvement," Keane said. "We continue to shift our efforts towards implementing lean, a mindset of continuous improvement, and ongoing investments in our new footprint."

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